Frédéric Chopin

As a celebrated pianist, Frédéric Chopin quickly collected an impressive number of pupils. He particularly emphasised the development of an individual style of piano playing.

The training of individual artistic faculties was seldom pinpointed so clearly. With his insistence on expressing emotions through the piano, Chopin understood music as a language, and required a corresponding method of playing. He often used the idiom ‘dire un morceau de musique’ (‘let the music speak’).

Chopin did not try to correct the natural inequality of the fingers, but recognised the singularity of each finger as the source of an immense variety of tonal colour. He valued the thumb, for example, as the ‘strongest and most disengaged finger’, the index finger as an ‘most important support’, the middle finger as the ‘great singer’ and the ring finger as ‘its worst enemy’. As the ring finger is bound to the middle finger ‘like a Siamese twin’, he tried to avoid 3-4-3 fingerings in fast passages wherever possible.

The relaxed hand position, so essential for an expressive keystroke, explains Chopin’s preference for the black keys. They facilitate a comfortable position for the longer middle fingers, crucial for virtuoso and expressive playing alike. This characteristic also established the etudes in the concert hall.